Many men who have had cancer treatment do not realize that rates of long-term sexual problems average around 60%, and that at least a third to half of men also have damaged fertility. Men treated for cancer as children or teens have about a third fewer children than their healthy brothers. Common sexual problems in men include loss of sexual desire, trouble getting and keeping erections, having weak or dry orgasms, and even pain during sexual activity. Sadly, fewer than 20% of people see a health professional for these reproductive problems—and even when they do, they have trouble finding true experts who know how best to help. It is not surprising that sexual problems rank among the top 5 unmet needs of cancer survivors in repeated surveys.
As a clinical psychologist, I spent my long career focusing on sex and fertility after cancer. I was so frustrated at seeing patients miss out on helpful, timely information that I created Will2Love.com, a digital health company offering online help for cancer-related problems with sexuality or fertility. We started to develop online, interactive programs to help men and women way back in 2000. From 2000 to 2016, I was on the faculty of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where we received three small business grants from the National Cancer Institute to support these projects. We also had significant help from American Cancer Society grants on sexuality and prostate cancer.
Will2Love Resources for the Cancer Community
Will2Love offers a good deal of free information to the cancer community, including our blog, webinars on special topics (which are recorded and can be watched at any time), forums, and extensive resource links. We are building a network of expert psychologists who can provide sex therapy or fertility counseling in the state where they are licensed, using secure videoconferencing. The heart of Will2Love are our men’s and women’s self-help programs. Each covers all types of cancer and treatment, explaining sexual and fertility side effects. A special goal-setting feature helps the user set his or her highest priorities. The program creates a table with links to the information that will be most helpful. Step-by-step self-help exercises help survivors and partners make changes in their sex lives or relationships, including dating after cancer. We include education on sperm banking and infertility treatment for cancer survivors. Guidance is available on making choices about special medical treatments for sexual problems or fertility. We already have three published studies showing that earlier versions of these programs improved men’s and women’s sexual function and satisfaction.
Join our Clinical Trial
Now Will2Love has joined with the American Cancer Society to test the current versions of the men’s and women’s self-help programs in a real-world clinical trial. The Find Your PATHS Study offers up to 6 months of free use of our men’s or women’s self-help programs to participants, who agree to complete brief questionnaires and allow us to track their website usage.
The “Find Your PATHS (Pragmatic Assessment of a Tool to Help Survivors) to Sexual Health and Parenthood” study will test the effectiveness of personalized, in-depth self-help programs for cancer survivors who have problems with sexuality or fertility. The study is open to anyone age 18 or older who has been diagnosed with cancer, or is the intimate partner of someone with cancer, has concerns about sexuality and/or fertility, and is living in the USA. Participants will complete a brief questionnaire and will be able to use the online self-help program for three months, free of charge. At the end of three months, they will be asked to fill out follow-up questionnaires. If they do so, they will get another three months of access to the program. To learn more about the study or to sign up, visit https://will2love.com/FindYourPathsInfo/
We hope to have up to 1,100 cancer survivors and/or their intimate partners participating in the study. Confidentiality and privacy are carefully protected. Will2Love.com’s whole site conforms to the government’s HIPAA laws on the security and privacy of health information. Each person in the study is assigned a special study number. Once the study is over and results have been analyzed, the list linking participants’ names or emails and their study numbers will be destroyed.
Dr. Otis Brawley, Chief Medical Officer for the American Cancer Society commented: “Sexuality and fertility are crucial aspects of quality of life for cancer survivors and their loved ones. This study tests an online program that already has been shown in earlier versions to improve sexual function and satisfaction in men and women treated for cancer. If the trial is successful, it could improve care for the many people with unmet needs to prevent or resolve sexual dysfunction or infertility related to their cancer treatment.”
We hope cancer survivors interested in Trak and DCYB will take a look at the Find Your PATHS study and will consider participating. And to just learn more about sex, fertility, and cancer, visit Will2Love.com.